2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart: Think of it as the Evo-Light
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Mitsubishi has scored in America with its Lancer Evolution, or Evo. Coming to market after successes in the World Rally Championships in 1992, the Evo has had 10 generations of changes and has earned popularity as a modern-day muscle car that brings rally and track appeal to the streets.
The Evo, however, has limited mainstream appeal, and to broaden its potential market, Mitsubishi has developed a new sibling, the Lancer Ralliart, which is something like “Evo-Light,” a modified, more street-oriented version of its older rally sister.
On the outside, my Apex Silver test vehicle was aggressively styled and clearly showed its heritage with a race-inspired lightweight aluminum, ducted hood that ports cooling air to the turbocharger and vents engine heat. The athletic-looking forward stance, wide grille, front bumper, rear bumper cover, dual outlet exhaust and rear foil that is a much more conservative spoiler than the one found on the Evo, pay homage to its sporty relative in a package that measures out at 180.0 inches long, 58.7 inches high and 69.4 inches wide on a 103.7-inch wheelbase and weighing in at just under 3500 lbs.
The Ralliart is based on the Lancer GTS platform, utilizing the Evo’s veteran powertrain and 4-wheel drive technology. The result is a blend of road performance and street finesse. The Lancer Ralliart’s power is derived from a modified version of the Lancer Evolution 4B11 T/C turbocharged/intercooled 2.0-liter DOHC MIVEC engine, teamed with the Twin Clutch-Sportronic® Shift Transmission from the Evolution MR model.
The Evo’s long block assembly, the turbocharger, intercooler and valve timing are modified for the Ralliart and the combination produces 237 hp 253 lbs.-ft. of peak torque , where the Evolution’s numbers thunder out at 291 hp and 300 lbs.-ft. A main difference between Ralliart and Evo is the Ralliart’s turbocharger, which is a smaller, single-scroll unit instead of the twin-scroll turbo in the Evolution X. My test Ralliart delivered a long-flat torque curve that demonstrated slow off-the line speed, but exceptional passing acceleration.
My best track times showed a zero-to-60mph run of 6 seconds flat, which was a bit disappointing, and my test vehicle managed quarter-mile times in a pedestrian 14.5 seconds, with the car tuned just as one would be when it is driven off a car lot. I found the Ralliart to be sluggish and hesitant at each pedal mash, but when the turbo kicks in there is jetlike thrust. That engine whine and road noise are very apparent in the cockpit – driver and passengers are in for vibrato and vibration, rather than a refined ride, though the handling and roll are much softer and mainstream than in its extreme sibling.
EPA rated at 17mpg in city driving and 25mpg on the highway, my week of testing covered nearly 500 miles in mixed-use scenarios and the vehicle achieved and average of 22.1mpg.
Curiously, the platform it uses also underpins the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV, but Evolution models are built on a specially reinforced, wide-body version of this platform with forged aluminum chassis components and Brembo brakes. The set-up produces solid handling on the street, on the highway and during auto-cross and high-speed track tests.
One cool handling item inside is the differential unit that distributes drive torque between the front and rear wheels in response to driving conditions. The driver can set system response parameters using a "Tarmac, Gravel, Snow" selector. A helical limited-slip front differential and a mechanical limited-slip rear differential help optimize side-to-side torque distribution. When set on “Gravel,” there is a real off-road feel the ride, with more low-end torque, and it is fun, though not very performance- or economy-oriented to play with the settings even on a flat, dry roadway, to enjoy the different capabilities and ride experiences.
Inside the Black cabin, Ralliart is sporty-comfortable with leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and audio system and cruise control switches, leather-wrapped shift knob, FAST Key hands-free entry system, 140-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with digital signal processing, MP3 playback capability and six speakers, Center floor console box with armrest, cruise control, front map lamps, hands-free Bluetooth cellular phone interface system with voice recognition, air conditioning with micron filter, automatic climate control, sport meter speedo and tach, driver information display, 6-way adjustable driver seat, Ralliart logo floor mats, premium sport fabric seating surfaces and tilt-adjustable steering column.
Attending to safety Ralliart earned top ratings of 5 stars in the NHTSA’s crash tests in frontal driver and side crash tests, and picked up 4 of 5 stars in passenger and rear tests as well as in rollover situations. Ralliart is outfitted with advanced dual-stage front air bag SRS with front passenger occupant sensors, curtain side air bags, driver's knee air bag, and front seat mounted side-impact air bags. The car was engineered with front crumple zones, rise body construction, anti-theft engine immobilizer and security alarm and adjustable rear headrests.
The Mitsubishi Ralliart is priced at $26,490, with destination and handling charges adding $675 for a bottom line of $27,165. All of the items in my test ride were standard, with no optional add-ons to inflate the price.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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